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James Watson and Norman Borlaug Sign Pro-Biotechnology Declaration

TUSKEGEE, ALABAMA February 7, 2000—Nobel Prize winners James Watson and Norman Borlaug join more than 1,000 other scientists from around the world in endorsing a "Declaration of Scientists in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology."

The declaration, drafted by Professor C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University, calls biotechnology a "powerful and safe means for the modification of organisms," and says that biotechnology "can contribute substantially in enhancing quality of life by improving agriculture, health care, and the environment." Professor Prakash added that "despite the nonsense being spread by anti-biotech activists, this technology can actually improve environmental conditions while helping to boost world food production.

Drafted just three weeks ago, the scientists’ declaration has already attracted the signatures of over 1,000 scientists, including such notable agriculture and health experts as:

  • Bruce Ames, professor of biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley and winner of the 1998 U.S. President’s National Medal of Science;
  • Gurdev Khush, rice breeder with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and past winner of the World Food Prize;
  • Roger N. Beachy, President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and co-director of the International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology; and

  • Ingo Potrykus, professor of plant biotechnology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and developer of the new "Golden Rice" variety with added beta carotene and iron.

James Watson and his colleague Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA and the two shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their achievement. Norman Borlaug, considered the "Father of the Green Revolution," developed many of the hybrid wheat varieties used to boost food production in Mexico during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and helped spread the Green Revolution to South America and Asia. Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to increase world food production.

"There is no scientific reason to believe that genetically-engineered foods are any less safe than the foods we’ve been eating for centuries," said Professor Prakash, "so we members of the scientific community felt it necessary to counter the unfounded attacks that anti-biotech activists are spreading about these products." The declaration and a list of signatories can be viewed at the www.AgBioWorld.org web site, established to support the Declaration and to share information with policymakers, reporters, and members of the public.